Readers Write: (July 23): Detroit's bankruptcy; Downtown East project, fracking

  • Updated: July 22, 2013 - 6:29 PM

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The politics, response, and the difference

The Detroit bankruptcy debacle may be a harbinger of fiscal problems of other major cities. Unfortunately, the media have elected to avoid a sensitive subject — politics. Public employees, notably in large cities, were granted generous defined benefit pensions, in lieu of wage and other benefit increases. The cities and the public-employee unions were almost all run by Democrats, who curried favor with the unions for political support.

As the years passed and the municipal revenues declined for various reasons, contributions to the pension funds remained the same, obviously resulting in inadequate funding. Local politicians were apparently unwilling to do battle with the unions; the pensions became increasingly underfunded.

The political consideration of the growing pension problem is that the voters should elect officials whose fiscal decisions should be based on hard economics, not political loyalties. Detroit is not alone in this problem. Local governments may well be better off guided by conservatives, not by politicians tied to public-employee unions.


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Talk about distorted priorities. We can spend trillions of dollars on two unnecessary wars, and tens of billions to bail out a corrupted banking system, but we can’t find $18 billion to bail out the city of Detroit and its 700,000 residents. We should be ashamed.


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Detroit has revitalized its downtown but neglected its neighborhoods. So people have fled, and the shrunken tax base cannot cover the bills or support the services needed to keep a city alive.

I live in Minneapolis, a city with problems but also a city with healthy neighborhoods and thus a sufficient tax base. I give credit for this happy circumstance to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), which for 20 years spent city and state money to “make the city’s residential areas better places to live, work, learn and play.” The NRP website explains that it is an “investment program.”

I hope that a new NRP is created soon to keep Minneapolis a vital city. I hope that those of us who may have complained about spending tax money on neighborhoods see how that spending kept our property values high and our jobs alive. I hope that suburbanites who come to my city for restaurants, theater, museums and sporting events see that state tax dollars gave them a cultural and entertainment center that they can enjoy even though they don’t live in that center.


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Add a bike center, but spare the street grid

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